Sciatica refers to pain that moves along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down each leg. Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body.

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Richard Hostin, MD

Sciatica Pain

Sciatica is neuralgia caused by damage or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve appears as the longest and thickest (close to finger width) nerve in the body. It is actually composed of 5 nerve roots. Two are from the lumbar region, called the lumbar spine, and three are from the last part of the spine, called the sacrum. The five nerve roots combine to form the left and right sciatic nerves. The sciatic nerve passes through the hips, buttocks, and one leg on both sides of the body and ends just below the knee. The sciatic nerve then branches down the leg to other nerves that travel down the foot and toes. True Sciatica Injury “Sciatica” does not happen often, but the term “sciatica” refers to pain that begins in the lower back and spreads to the legs.

Along with sciatica, a patient will experience pain from damage, inflammation, pinching, or compression of the lower back nerves. With “sciatica,” you will experience mild to severe pain anywhere along the sciatic nerve, from the lower back to the lower back, buttocks, and/or under the legs. It can also cause leg and foot weakness, numbness in the legs, and an unpleasant tingling sensation in the legs, feet, and toes.

What does Sciatica Pain feel like?

Depending on the etiology, people describe sciatica pain in a variety of ways — sharp, shooting, or jerky pain. Others describe this pain as a burning sensation, electricity, or a puncture wound. The pain may be persistent or intermittent. In addition, patients state that back pain does not hurt as much as leg pain. When you sit or stand for lengthy periods of time, stand up, or twist or move your upper body, the pain may get worse. A forceful and quick body movement, such as coughing or sneezing, might aggravate the pain.

Can Sciatica affect Both Legs?

Normally, sciatica just affects one leg at a time. However, sciatica can occur on both feet. It all depends on where the nerve gets pinched along the spinal column.

Does Sciatica occur quickly or does it build over time?

Sciatica can strike abruptly or develop over time. It all depends on the situation. A herniated disc can cause excruciating agony. Spinal arthritis develops gradually over time.

Does Sciatica Occur Frequently?

Sciatica does occur very frequently. Sciatica affects around 40% of Americans at some time during their life. The third most common reason people visit their doctor occurs as a result of back pain.

The General Causes of Sciatica

The following describes the reasons why people get Sciatica:

  • The muscles of your back and abdomen make up your “core.” Your lower back will gain support if your core becomes stronger by building your muscles in the lower back.
  • Jobs that entail heavy lifting or lengthy sitting may raise your risk of lower back issues and the use of your back.
  • You can have sciatica even if you’re physically healthy and active if you don’t use good body form when lifting weights or doing other strength training activities
  • Sitting for lengthy periods of time without exercising and keeping your muscles moving, might increase your chance of developing sciatica.
  • Tobacco smoke contains nicotine, which can harm spinal tissue, weaken bones, and hasten the deterioration of vertebral discs.
  • Sciatica can develop after a lower back or spine injury.
  • The changes and movements in bone, discs, and ligaments that occur as you age might put your nerves in danger of being harmed or pinched.
  • When you are obese, your spine behaves like a vertical crane. The heavier you are, the more your back muscles need to function. This can lead to back tension, pain, and other back problems.

Does Excessive Weight During Pregnancy Cause Sciatica?

Although sciatica occurs frequently during pregnancy, increased weight does not cause sciatica in pregnant women. Moreover, a better explanation points to pregnancy hormones causing ligaments to relax. Then, ligaments connect the vertebrae, protect the discs, and maintain spinal stability. Also, ligaments that are loosened can make the spine unstable and allow discs to slide, causing nerve pinching and the development of sciatica. In addition, the weight and location of the infant might also put a strain on the nerve. There are treatments to relieve sciatic pain while pregnant, and the pain goes away after the baby arrives. Physical therapy and massage treatment, as well as warm baths, heat, medicines, and other methods, cal help. If you’re pregnant, maintain an appropriate posture during your pregnancy to reduce pain.

What Health Problems Cause Sciatica?

  • Sciatica is most commonly caused by a nerve root that becomes compressed by a herniated or slipped disc.
  • Disc wear reduces the height of the discs, narrowing the nerve pathways (spinal stenosis), which may put pressure on the sciatic nerve roots.
  • Spinal Stenosis refers to the improper narrowing of the spinal canal that may cause sciatic nerve compression.
  • Spondylolisthesis might squeeze the sciatic nerve.
  • Osteoarthritis may appear and press on the nerves in the lower back.
  • A lumbar spine or sciatic nerve traumatic damage.
  • Tumors can cause compression of the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spinal canal.
  • When the piriformis muscle, a small muscle deep in the buttocks, contracts or spasms, it can irritate and push on the sciatic nerve.
  • Cauda equina syndrome refers to an uncommon condition affecting the cauda equina, a bundle of nerves near the end of the spinal cord.
  • Diabetes raises the risk of nerve injury.
  • Osteoarthritis can put your nerves in jeopardy.

Sciatica Symptoms 

  • Sciatica causes moderate to severe pain in the lower back, buttocks, and down the leg.
  • Numbness or weakness in the hips, buttocks, legs, or feet
  • Pain that becomes worse with movement; inability to move.
  • Foot, toe, or tingling of the foot.
  • Loss of control over bowels and bladder (due to cauda equina).

If I’m diagnosed with Sciatica, what can I Expect?

Sciatic pain normally goes away on its own with time and self-care. Also, the majority of persons with sciatica (80 percent to 90 percent) recover completely without surgery, and nearly half of them do so within six weeks. If your sciatica pain does not get better and you’re worried about not recuperating as soon as you’d want, make an appointment with one of our doctors.

Does Sciatica Pain come from only the Sciatic Nerve?

No, the sciatic nerve does not provide the only source of the pain associated with “sciatica” or sciatica. The source of the pain can sometimes be found higher up in the lumbar spine, causing pain at the front of the thigh or in the hip area. The pain is still referred to as sciatica.

How can I tell if my Hip Pain comes from Sciatica or a Hip Problem?

Hip disorders, such as arthritis, frequently produce groin pain, which gets worse when you put weight on your leg or move it around. However, sciatica occurs as the most common cause of back pain that moves or radiates to the hip or down the leg, as well as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the leg.

We’re here to help STOP THE PAIN
If you or your loved one suffers from back pain from a spinal condition, there is hope. We can help. Call THE Southwest Scoliosis and Spine Institute at 214-556-0555 to make an appointment today.